Who was Ernest McBride, Sr.?
A Long Beach civil rights activist and community leader, Ernest S. McBride, Sr. was born on Nov. 20, 1909, one of seven children of a Mississippi Delta farmer. At age 8, the family moved to Arkansas, where the children attended segregated schools. It was at the all-black Scipio A. Jones High School in Little Rock where McBride first learned about Mahatma Gandhi’s model for peaceful protest of injustice.
After graduation, McBride played briefly with the Memphis Red Sox of the Negro Baseball League, but soon headed to California in search of better jobs and higher wages.
At his first job on an all-black crew loading cotton onto ships in San Pedro Harbor, McBride discovered that his crew as making less than the previous workers—Latinos, who had been fired after asking for raise. McBride quit and fought to unionize all shipyard workers, regardless of race.
Later, while working as a supermarket janitor, he helped bring in a store clerks’ union although he was never able to join the union himself. Among the many injustices he fought were attempts to bar him and his wife, Lillian, from purchasing a home on Lemon Avenue in Long Beach in 1948. When restrictive covenants and a petition by white neighbors to keep his family out might have stopped another man, McBride persevered, and not only bought the bungalow but raised his six children there. The house became a regular meeting place for civil rights activists and was designated a local historical landmark by the Long Beach City Council in 1994.
By then, McBride had become a local legend. Having co-founded the Long Beach Chapter of the NAACP, he successfully fought to integrate the Long Beach Police Department, the naval shipyard and General Telephone Co. He organized a student revolt (including two of his own children) to force local officials to abandon blackface minstrel shows.
Ernest McBride, Sr. died in 2007 at the age of 97. He is survived by five children including Carl McBride of the LBUSD Maintenance Department and Ernest McBride, Jr., now retired, who worked as a school security guard for the district.
Visit the McBride High School project page.
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